Exclusive: Pittsburgh musicians are told they may be replaced

What began as a musicians strike is now turning into a full-scale lockout.

The following letter has been sent out to all employees, underlining the company’s intention to keep Heinz Hall open ‘for our patrons’. In order to do so, it may require us to hire replacement workers, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as will be determined by the business necessity that we face.

The letter was clearly written by a non-native English speaker.

Here’s the full letter, grammatical mistakes uncorrected, dated October 4:

 

 

psi

Dear Employee,

We had hoped that the PSI and the Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union, Local No. 60-471, could have reached an agreement on all of the terms and conditions for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement without the decision to strike. However, we will continue to work to achieve an Agreement.

This letter is intended to explain your compensation and benefits during the time that you are on strike. All weeks that you have worked up to the date of the first day of the strike, September 30, 2016, that have not been paid, will be paid by us to you at the close of the next payroll period (mandatory deductions apply). No compensation will be paid thereafter.

By reason of this economic strike, as we understand it, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Existing healthcare benefits were continued to be provided up to the last day of September, 2016. You will receive our standard COBRA letter that will offer healthcare benefit continuation thereafter at your own expense. No accrual toward any other fringe benefit will continue during the time that you are on strike. Please understand that this letter is not be intended to interfere with your protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act, as those rights are explained to you by your Union, nor is it to be interpreted as a comment on your decision to exercise your right to engage in an economic strike.

As stated above, it is intended only to serve as an information letter concerning your compensation and benefits as of this date. You must realize that the PSI has an obligation to keep Heinz Hall open and operating to serve our patrons and others as they expect and as may be required. In order to do so, it may require us to hire replacement workers, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as will be determined by the business necessity that we face. If we take that course of action, the PSI will assure you that it will provide to you all rights that are required by law.

A copy of this letter has been provided to your Orchestra Committee representative, Mr. Micah Howard. If you have any questions, please raise them with Mr. Howard and us for further explanation, if necessary.

 

Sincerely,

Christian Schörnich

Senior Vice President & COO Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc.

 

pittsburgh heinz hall

Personnel details: Christian Schörnich joined the organisation as COO on January 1 this year, having previously worked at the United Nations. He is married to Pittsburgh Symphony violinist Eva Burmeister.

Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony said on his appointment: ‘Christian Schörnich brings incredible management expertise to the Pittsburgh Symphony. His strengths in finance, business operations, negotiations, and change management align with my priorities for the role and my vision for the growth of the Pittsburgh Symphony.’

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    • As I said 80 comments ago:

      “Schörnich said the letter, published in slippedisc.com, had been written by the company legal counsel.”

  • Christian Schörnich is a native German speaker who has lived in the US for a decade or so – his education was primarily in Germany in German. Regardless, Melia Tourangeau should know better than to handle a strike situation in this manner, and she should be willing to lead her board to a constructive position, using Minnesota as an example.

    • Schörnich signed it. Some anonymous lawyer wrote it. Although I’m not a lawyer, as a flak in a former life I wrote similar statements for US corporate bigwigs to offer up as their own.

    • Exactly my thoughts! Hopefully other musicians will feel the same and refuse to step in leaving the management no choice but to negotiate with the orchestra members. Best wishes to everyone involved!

      • I absolutely agree. I would try to get a refund from my subscription and if that didn’t work, I’d refrain from attending any concerts.

  • Sorry, but the non-native English speaker comment was distasteful. I’ve seen much worse from people who were born and raised in the US. Voting for Trump too? Jeez. Get a clue!

  • PSO musicians those of us musicians in town but not in the PSo would never cross your line! We will fight with you to make sure no one else does either!

  • I think the letter is beautifully written. Even though I find the contents disturbing, I had no trouble understanding it. Does it really matter if it was written by a German speaker or an English speaker? The meaning is quite clear. But good luck finding non-union members to populate all those 96 or so positions and getting them to sound like a professional orchestra. The audience will surely notice a significant difference. And none of this serves PSI well at all. How is this reflective of negotiating in good faith? How does this help build trust? Both those commodities are needed to build an orchestra, to help move forward and grow, as the CEO says she aspires to do. Music is not a commodity, like coal and oil. Music is a public service, like that which institutions of education and medicine provide. We supply plenty of donations in the name of learning and finding a cure. The sooner we realize this the sooner we stop treating these situations as a simple matter of supply and demand. Musicians are not blue collar workers. They should be treated like the professionals they are. In what other profession have the individuals spent all but three to ten years of their lives practicing?

    • I hope they replace all of these cry baby musicians, with people who wanna work. I can walk down the streets of a major city and find a homless person that can play as good as these jokers.

      • I am quite sure you have never been to a symphony concert, otherwise you would never have made such and ignorant statement. And it’s “homeless”…

      • You do not know anything about the level of playing required to get and keep an orchestral job. I doubt you have ever attended a symphony concert or you would know your statement was ignorant. Plus, you can’t spell “homeless” correctly…

        • While I support the orchestra, Richard is somewhat correct. Getting an orchestra job is a crap shoot as it often comes down to choosing from a pool of equally qualified candidates, with the winner just having a better day. Music schools produce an overabundance of fantastic musicians every year and there are many top musicians who never get a shot at an orchestra job. In the end, we’re all just cogs in the machine. It is only slick PR that tries to convince otherwise.

  • “”Christian Schörnich joined the organisation as COO on January 1 this year, having previously worked at the United Nations. He is married to Pittsburgh Symphony violinist Eve Burmeister.”””…………………..must be interesting conversations at home – management and striker……….or maybe they ain’t talking to each other 🙂

    Nothing wrong with that English, while inelegant to the British (such as myself) it is, as someone else has pointed out, pretty standard for American Human Resource Departments, whether a lawyer “helped” or not would not have added to the quality or clarity of the statement. These things all read like this.

    It is very disappointing that this seems to be going down a similar track to the Minnesota debacle. This is a truly sensational orchestra with a wonderful music director, I wish we heard them more in New York. The Cleveland Orchestra and the LSO have residences in New York (and elsewhere) – how about something like that for the PSO? They’re just as good. Mind you, that would require some imagination from management…………..and perhaps a bigger budget or more revenues.

    • Looking at Mr. Schörnich’s previous work experience at the United Nations, you’d expect more from someone who spent over a decade as a Senior Consultant in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of all places.

      @NL Your remark regarding the letter’s linguistic shortcomings, coupled with the frequent misspelling and at times curious use and interpretation/translation of several languages (including your native English) here on SD, reminds one of glass houses and stones.

  • Very distasteful to mention the article was not written by a native English speaker. Perhaps it is a bit clunky, but I had no trouble reading it. Mentioning that does nothing to help the musicians’ cause.

  • I wonder if the stacked fermatas on the PSO logo refers to the patience of the musicians or the extent of management’s knowledge of what they are doing to this major institution.

  • Actually, the letter was extremely well written. Having working in the benefits field for years, this is a fairly standard notice.

    On the other hand, the threat of hiring scabs makes me livid.

  • Union busting–the business model taught us by the venerable Ronald Reagan.
    Think before you pull the lever on Nov. 8
    My advice to PSO musicians: Take the offer and get on with your job. You’re fighting something far bigger than PSO management.

      • The AFM is nothing to management anymore. This is a long trend that is gradually moving across the country. Unions are struggling to meet the expectations of their members. It’s not working. Soon, unions will be totally impotent, maybe even gone.

        Check out what happened to Big Three workers the last 10 years.

        The new business model is “take it or leave it.” You can’t fight that. Not this day and age when there’s always another willing-and wanting-to do your job for less. And, forget expertise. Great players are now a dime a dozen, which does not help musicians’ cause at all.

        Very few people care one stitch about how “great” any American orchestra is.

        Before we know it, we’ll all be temp workers.

        Thank you Ronald Reagan and Lewis Powell, before he was SC justice.

        • You don’t appear to know much about the orchestra business in the US. It is one of the most unionized businesses in the country, and all but a handful of unionized orchestras are AFM orchestras. Most orchestra managements accept this and don’t make any efforts to de-unionize.

  • There is so much wrong with the content of that letter that it is a distraction to comment on the linguistic style. It’s also in poor taste to criticize suspected linguistic shortcomings in a non-native speaker.

    Let’s take the high road–and focus on the real issue of management incompetence, shall we?

    • As if any professional musician would cross the line. What a joke and pathetic excuse at a scare tactic. Solidarity with those wonderful musicians of western PA.

  • I have to believe that a strong union town like Pittsburgh will not support replacement musicians. Stay strong, Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

  • Regardless of how I feel about my hometown orchestra’s current difficulties, Mr. Lebrecht’s unnecessary remark smacks of xenophobia. Perhaps he is unaware that Pittsburgh was proudly built by immigrants, MANY of whom were German. The city and its orchestra are still populated by many non-native English speakers.

    • “…, MANY of whom were German.”
      I wouldn’t have brought that bit up if you’re trying to elicit understanding…..we’re not exactly Norman’s favourite ‘lot’.

  • I agree with other commenters that your “non-native-speaker” criticism is a cheap shot. The letter is in legalese, with one extra “were” that probably slipped in during editing.

    Your xenophobia distracts from the outrageous implications in the substance of the letter.

    • To use a legal term: bollocks. The letter is littered with missed or added words and syntatctical howlers. Example: In order to do so, it may require us… What may require us? What is active, what passive? This is an assault on the English language as much as it is on the players.

      • “it” = their obligation (see the previous sentence). Perhaps not as felicitous as saying “this obligation may require…” and — as others have noted — the whole letter is standard clunky American legalese; but there’s nothing I would call a “syntactical howler.”

      • No American would consider it an assault on the “American English Language” Norman, we see this sort of overly worded dreck day in and day out. . I believe your crticism of the gent’s English is unworthy of you and not needed to make your otherwise clear point, that the PSO management is threatening to use substitute workers.

        Even if you’re right…………sometimes it’s better to just apologize and move along. Unless you’re feeling unusually Trumplike……………

      • Norman, I’d be much more interested in your comments on the content of the letter, rather than a criticism of the grammatical shortcomings of its author. This comes up so frequently in internet arguments that it’s become a cliche — “Don’t have anything substantial to add to the debate? Then criticize the spelling.”

      • Norman, that is actually standard U.S. legalese. We see this ALL THE TIME here. Please don’t judge American writing by British standards here, because that’s not the issue! (I concede that it IS a subject for another conversation.)

        The issue is the content of the letter. If management is threatening to permanently replace the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony, those music and are hardly going to care about the writing skills of the officer making that decision.

  • Definitely written by a lawyer; no orchestra manager is going to risk making a legal mistake in the drafting of a letter of this import.

    Any manager who hires replacement musicians has to have their head examined. Not only will they make themselves absolutely radioactive within the US orchestra business, and create a huge mess outside of each concert by the replacements, but they’ll have hired a group of musicians who will themselves unionize in a few years. Who do they think is going to conduct their replacement orchestra, I wonder? Not the music director – at least not if he ever wants to conduct an American orchestra again.

    Orchestra strikes tend to last for weeks because it’s cheaper for orchestras not to pay musicians and put on concerts. That’s why orchestras are non-profits. That’s also why orchestras don’t hire replacement workers, in addition to the problems mentioned above.

  • If it did come down to a mass firing/mass rehiring situation, there are probably enough anti-union musicians in the US alone (good ones, too) to fill up all the seats in the PSO. If they’re happy stepping into the jobs of their former colleagues, then they will no doubt be equally happy accepting unilaterally imposed pay decreases and deteriorating working conditions. Remember, though: if management can find people willing to play for half the current salary, they can find people willing to play for half of that, and half of that.

    The orchestra might not be as good, but if management’s goal is to move from the major leagues down to the minors, then that’s not a problem.

      • Doesn’t matter. We see “top end,” they see “too expensive.” They’d rather have the minimum required for chamber-of-commerce purposes (luring companies with quality-of-life perks like “World-class football, baseball, and hockey teams! Also a professional symphony orchestra”), until they can get rid of it altogether.

        Being on the board of a large non-profit used to be a mark of prestige; now, the prestige comes from helping to downsize or eliminate one.

        • What an idiotic comment. People join Boards because they love the music (or the art or the healing or the theatre or the children or whatever) and they believe the can contribute to the success of an institution they value. No one joins a Board to dismantle.

          However, these are the unassailable facts of the orchestra business today:
          1. The bulk of the expense of running an Orchestra is the musician cost. This is NOT a value judgment, this is factual, and as it should be. The musicians are the instrument by which the product is delivered, and therefore *should* be the major expense.
          2. Pick your metric — decline of school music programs, loss of music coverage and/or criticism in your local mainstream media, slowly disappearing CD labels, no more record stores, loss of classical radio. Whatever your chosen metric, there is plenty of ancillary evidence that there is declining market interest in the art form.
          3. If the market cannot or does not wish to bear the cost of a product, there are choices…reduce the cost of the product to a level which the market can/will bear (through earned revenue and philanthropy) or reduce the supply to meet the demand.

          Those are the facts. Cold and clinical, but factual.

          Of course, there is also the obvious retort that orchestras should build demand. Of course we want to build demand, that is what the people like me, in the administration, do, banging our heads against the wall daily trying to figure out how to get people to try this wonderful music. It takes money, and it takes a receptive customer to build demand, and most orchestras are wallowing in neither. And it is torture to see the effects of this reality on the musicians. The work I do and that Boards do, is in support of the work they do.

          • Idiotic in your experience, maybe. Outside of your experience, possibly not.

            The industry could use more supporters like you. Thanks for what you do.

          • Here in Minnesota we had two consecutive board chairs (both banksters) who never attended concerts and who did indeed join the board for rather nefarious purposes. Unfortunately they can slip in and influence a lot of people. Fortunately several previous board members finally came to the rescue.

    • I sincerely doubt that there will be any replacement musicians. I’m not a union member, but I wouldn’t dream of crossing a picket line, and I’ve never known one friend who would. The community of professional musicians is relatively small and built upon relationships with your colleagues. To work as a scab would be a giant slap to the face of my colleagues, as well as essentially professional suicide.

      I can’t imagine any teachers at good schools would allow their students to cross a picket line either….I sure wouldn’t!

  • At the risk of being pedantic, what starts as a strike cannot turn into a lockout, at least not under the legal definitions of these terms in the US. If the musicians initiated the work stoppage, regardless of whether they were provoked to do so by management’s intransigence, it is a strike. If management prevented players from coming to work who were otherwise willing to do so, it’s a lockout. That management is using every tactic in the book in order to intimidate the players into capitulating, including threatening to hire replacement workers, doesn’t alter that it is still a strike.

  • It appears that the people of Pittsburg are more concerned with grammar than they are with the issues surrounding the strike.
    If ticket sales, foundation support, and donor contributions can’t cover the cost of musician salaries, what are the alternatives?

    • But also, if the executives of a non-profit corporation can’t raise the money to meet the costs of the organization, it is their fault, and they should be the ones who pay for its failure. I detest this CEO/President and Senior VP crap. I remember when Sir Rudolf Bing was perfectly content to be the ‘Manager’ of the Met. This letter is indeed a standard lawyer-written corporate communication AND a threat. It’s the sort of thing that might well come from an auto or mining corporation, but never should such a thing come from a non-profit, incorporated or not. Having issued the threat, if they can’t get scabs to cross the line they have sealed their own doom.

    • The people of Pittsburgh are probably concerned about how their city is spelled. As for the grammar in the letter, it was NL who raised the issue.
      Since you asked, the alternatives include a management that has the same level of expertise as the world-class musicians it is threatening to replace.

  • I would be sharing this among my social media contacts but for the author’s unwarranted and cheap accusation that the letter was written by a non-native speaker.

  • “Clearly written by a non-native English speaker”.

    What is the implication from that? Is the letter less valid because the grammar is occasionally tortuous? Is the writer less qualified because of this? Does the PSO have a less qualified COO because he is a non-native English speaker?

    Is this simply (as it seems to me) dog whistle racism?

    One of the advantages of English as an international language is that is understandable even without grammatical accuracy. The letter makes sense. Indeed, the sense it makes is what people should be discussing.

    Once again Norman has clouded an important issue with his own prejudices.

    • There are no prejudices here. The letter is sloppily written. It would not have been sent unchecked to a major donor, but since it was going out to musicians sloppy was considered good enough. As for ‘clouding an important issue’ you would not know of this letter’s existence if I had not published it on slippedisc.com. Show a little gratitude.

      • Norman, the writing style of that letter is absolutely typical of what you’d see in ANY legal document here. We even have a name for that style: “legalese.”

        Your derision towards non-native speakers does not go over well here in the U.S. Please remember that we are a young country populated almost entirely by immigrants and descendants of immigrants.

        Please, please consider editing out your reference to the writer’s non-native status.

        You would do all musicians far more good if you focused solely on the content of the letter, and its implications.

        Thank you.

      • Thank you, indeed. You do post interesting threads and information many of us would normally miss or not have access to. Further, I don’t believe that you have “cloud[ed] an important issue”.
        As for “There are no prejudices here.”, sorry, I don’t believe that either. The notion one perceives is “The letter is sloppily written…”, “Here’s the full letter, grammatical mistakes uncorrected…”, “The letter is littered with missed or added words and syntatctical howlers.”, “This is an assault on the English language…” ergo, “The letter was clearly written by a non-native English speaker.” ???
        If one were feeling a bit cheeky, one might even think that had the signatory’s name ended with ‘Uchiyama’ or ‘Figueras’ instead of ‘Schörnich’, you wouldn’t have made the “non-native” comment at all.

  • The attitude of the Pittsburg orchestra reminds me of the Versaille orchestra under Louis xvi when Paris was going down the pan, we should keep the orchestra going while the citizens eat cake.

    • Yes. It is a well-documented fact that caring about classical music, or the well-being of classical musicians, makes one uncaring about anything else.

    • But Pittsburgh as a city is doing extremely well. Employment is up, young people are moving here in droves, Google and Uber have moved in and are hiring, and there are also top universities and medical centers in Pittsburgh.

      As for the PSO, ticket sales were up (until the strike), and the annual fund drive set a record.

      So why shouldn’t the musicians’ pay be commensurate with other orchestras? Why would the musicians–who have already proven that they are at the top of the heap– choose to stay in Pittsburgh if other orchestras’ management have higher artistic standards?

      Apparently, several musicians have already been offered jobs in other orchestras.

  • I am appalled at the new CEO’s (Melia Tourongeau) appointment of a COO which had worked for the United Nations. He may have been hired to tighten up the finances of the PSO but we are not talking about just an organization and money. We are talking about the fabulous people/musicians of our orchestra. Each one of them is unique in his or her own way and are irreplaceable. I have followed them for years and know many personally. Think again, Mr. Christian S. about what you are doing.

  • Speaking of using the language, tell me, a graduate of CMU back in the 60’s when William Steinbergh ran the orchestra, has the “h” been removed from Pittsburgh? I want to spell it correctly on my resume.

    • That’s a daft comment and a tip-off re the quality of your resume. The name you allude is William Steinberg — it seems you stole the ‘h’ in Pittburgh and added it to Steinberg’s name. For God’s sake, don’t spell that wrong in your resume.

      • What snobs! Pitsburg used to be a great town!! Must be infiltrated by Uppities from some foreign country! I new Bill Stynburgh. Bill was a frend of mine.

        And, BTW, PSO musicians are going to lose. That’s just the way it is now.
        Welcome to the knew Amerika.

        • Anyone so confidently asserting that the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony will lose simply hasn’t been paying attention to recent history in Minnesota and Atlanta, and slightly less recent history in other orchestras. Professional symphony orchestras are indeed one of the most thoroughly unionized businesses in the U.S., and quite successfully too.

          Incidentally, the management of the Louisville Orchestra tried the same “replacement musicians” tactic several years ago during a labor dispute, even going so far as to put ads on Craigslist. They were exactly as successful in this as the management of the PSO will be, which is to say, not at all. No union musician–and a huge majority of professional orchestra musicians and aspiring orchestra musicians are union–will cross that line. So they will try to recruit students, but even if those students aren’t yet union, who do you think they study with?

          As we have in the past, musicians in other ICSOM orchestras are rallying to support our colleagues in Pittsburgh and Fort Worth. The musicians of the PSO do not stand alone, and neither does the Pittsburgh local of the AFM.

  • The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians are headed for the same fate. The management of the BSO makes Pittsburgh management look union friendly.
    Perhaos the Pittsburgh Orchestra should hire whoever from IATSE negotiated the latest stagehand contract that had BSO management trying for the past year to find any legal avenue to void the very union friendly deal. That is, before the BSO let me go with 2 hours of notice from a job I held for years.

  • To The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Board and Management:

    No right-thinking musician, or student for that matter, will EVER cross that picket line.

    The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is a world class orchestra with wonderful musicians throughout. It’s time to value the institution you claim to oversee and have a responsibility to, or get out of the business and let someone else do the job.

    You need to find ways to creatively connect with your entire city and region….with the emphasis on making the orchestra a musical treasure for everyone. There is plenty of money and lovers of excellence in Pittsburgh. Find them — do your job.

  • 1. Is it common for orchestra managements to threaten striking musicians in this way, suggesting that they will hire musicians to replace them?

    2. Is there no one on the board of PSO who has developed a relationship with current musicians? In my symphony, board members love individual musicians in the orchestra, and the thought of replacing one would horrify them! Admittedly we have a few board members who are anti-union and have never donated a single penny to the symphony, but most of our board would not be “on board” with a statement like this.

  • Here’s a novel idea: Donald Trump loves immigrants and hard working people. He’s going to bring back high-paying jobs to America. He has tons of (other people’s) money.

    Ring up The Buffoon, tell him of the plight of PSO’s working people who might lose their high-paying jobs, and I bet he’ll send a hefty donation to the board to “fix (one little part of) America.” He says, “I’m the only one who can do it!”

    This is so much bigger than it appears on the surface. American people need to get real.

  • This is boilerplate language that employer-side attorneys will use in any strike. In US labor law, there are two kinds of legal strikes, an “economic strike” and an “unfair labor practice strike” (ULP strike for short).

    In a strike where the employer has committed unfair labor practices (as defined under the law), the union will make that clear on its picket signs and statements (e.g., they would have signs that say “PSI unfair,” “unfair labor practices,” or similar). In ULP strikes, the employer cannot permanently replace the strikers.

    However, in cases where there is no allegation of unfair labor practices — or where the NLRB rules against a union and says that the employer did not commit ULPs — then the strike is classified as an “economic strike.” I am fairly certain that the PSO musicians are making no claim that this is a ULP strike, so it is economic. It means that PSI is theoretically allowed to permanently replace the musicians under US labor law. (There was an attempt in Congress to ban permanent scabs altogether in the early 1990s, but it failed.)

    I need hardly note for anyone who reads a website like this that the idea of replacing 96 symphony musicians is utterly ridiculous. PSI’s attorney no doubt advised the client to include that language to “keep your options open,” or some such idiotic piece of advice. In all cases when an employer does this, it inflames the situation, but in this case, where there’s no threat of it actually happening, it also makes management look ridiculous.

    • Don’t forget that the musicians have to make a living. That’s against them and their case.

      All management has to do is stall. Musicians will cave. Some will leave in the meantime.

      Like it or not, working people haven’t a leg to stand on anymore, short of a General Strike or full-blown revolt. Few anywhere care one stitch about PSO musicians and their petty problems with management.

      I’ve always found it interesting that so many working class people hate it when another working class person makes even the slightest gain in compensation.

  • I lived in MI for several years and was astounded at the quality of Jackson Symphony, Lansing Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, Ann Arbor Symphony–I’m sure I’ve omitted one or two–and the Detroit Symphony. The first four are part-time professional orchestras. I challenge anyone to blind audition them and distinguish between them. Off hand I don’t know what the budget now is for the Detroit orchestra, but it’s likely 25% less than it was before the strike a few years ago. Many left. Those remaining made huge compensation concessions and accepted added community reach-out responsibilities just to keep their jobs. Their season was not cut. And they still sound great.

    Not saying I agree with this. Just stating the facts.

    Symphony boards, I’m sure, talk with one another from time to time. I’m not suggesting there’s anything at all resembling an anti-union, anti-musician, anti-high pay conspiracy going on. Not at all. “But, there’s something going on out there. I don’t know what it is. But it’s bad. Real, real bad. And, I’m going to fix it. I build golf courses. I’m the only one who can fix it.”

  • Bottom line, to the average symphony goer, there’s not a great difference between a Bill Steinburgh and say, Joe Blow, the aspiring 3rd tier conductor. They all get the job done, getting through Beethoven’s 5th. The evening is over, everyone’s happy, they go out for after concert drinks, and go home to bed.

    However, the board would not think of hiring Joe Blowevsky, the superb 3rd tier conductor. They need the status hiring unimaginably expensive, big name conductors–and soloists, I might add–bring to their orchestra. (Many such conductors lead more than one orchestra.) Joe Blowevsky would do the job quite well for a fraction of the cost to the board. But, who cares about Joe Blowevsky?

    PSO musicians, who do much of the work, subsidize this. They do get a nice bow at the end of a performance if the conductor is honest.

  • You don’t think, do you, that one of the biggest problems in the classical music industry, from top to bottom, is snobbery, do you?

  • @Roger: I’m sure there are a lot of terrific football players who would be thrilled to earn $91,000 a year and play for the Pittsburgh Steelers–and nobody would be able to tell the difference.

    For that matter, there are plenty of brilliant, creative classical music lovers who would be thrilled to be on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

    • @ Rose: Pro sports is BIG BUSINESS. Pro orchestras are not, and that makes all the difference.

      If you could get orchestras to compete with one another on who plays Rite of Spring the best, and convince an audience it’s worth paying to listen to, then your problems might be over. Pro sports appeals to the masses, classical music to about 1% of the population.

  • The only case you made is what a gruesome society we have, that “the masses” think nothing about paying 20 million a year to thugs trying to give each other concussions, but are outraged to consider paying .5% of that to the best classical musicians.

  • Rose, I bet the board would be happy to pay musicians $20 Million/year if they had the money to do it. I’ll give them that. But that’s about all.

  • The musicians are not going to be replaced.

    No musician remotely close to being of the caliber of the Pittsburgh Symphony will cross the picket line and be a scab.

    The Louisville Orchestra tried this tactic a few years ago. Look at how it went.

    It’s just a lame attempt at a hardball negotiating tactic.

    If Pittsburgh truly wants an amateur orchestra, there are better ways of doing it.

    • Louisville Budget: about $5 Million
      PSO Budget: About $30 Million

      Doesn’t make any sense at all to draw any comparison in how their respective boards treat their payroll. Or in how the AFM deals with their contract disputes.

      Again, look at Detroit. Their situations are more comparable.

      • You missed the point.

        Musicians are not going to cross the picket line. Louisville tried, and failed, and made fools of themselves in the process. If Pittsburgh management makes a serious attempt, it will fail as well, and look even more foolish.

  • I once had a conversation with a well-known pricincipal player of a “Big 5” U.S. orchestra regarding this topic. At the time (mid-nineties) his orchestra was on strike and he had the gall to actually have his students (from a renowned music conservatory) picket with him outside the concert hall. During our heated debate, he mentioned that classical musicians were just as important to society as doctors, lawyers and other white-collar professionals, therefore they should be compensated accordingly. My response: “Doctors, lawyers and other professionals are essential to our society. Society can do without classical music and still remain intact, as it is a luxury.” I still stand by my comments today. The paradigm of the modern classical symphony orchestra is dead. It is time to move on and find new modes of musical and artistic expresssion. I will also add that the true artistic level of modern orchestras worldwide with few exceptions, is abysmally low compared with orchestras of 50+ years ago. The “technical” level is high, but musical sensibility and character is almost entirely absent. If the public is not interested to hear concerts of modern orchestras I don’t blame them.

  • @Art, you had me with you up through “I still stand by my comments today.”

    The PSO, I’m sure, is every bit, if not more so, the PSO I listened to live back in the 60’s with Steinberg conducting. I’m in awe of how beautiful European and American orchestras sound. Bottom line, I think, the musicians are more than capable of delivering any kind of performance a conductor asks them for. I think you need to put to rest any notion about “low artistic levels” unless you’re talking about conductor.

    The “paradigm of the modern classical symphony is(n’t) dead.” It’s just expensive. Figure out how to pay for it and it could go on indefinitely. I hope it does.

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